The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board honored Whiteriver Unified School District educator Laurel S. Endfield as an Outstanding Northland Pioneer College Alumnus at its Feb. 16 meeting. The award honors graduates who have used their NPC degree or skills training to succeed in the pursuit of a career or educational goal and are using this education to improve their communities. Susan Olsen, Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus Manager, presented the award to Endfield (right).
Single mother of four and grandmother to one, Laurel is an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache tribe and lives and works on the Fort Apache (White Mountain Apache) Reservation in the southern portion of Navajo County. With just a decade absence in the late 1980s/early 1990s while she lived and worked in Holbrook, Laurel calls the Fort Apache Reservation her lifetime home.
Laurel admits that her road to becoming an educator did not have an auspicious beginning. “I dropped out of school at 16 when my first child was due. The following year, though, I got my GED and then started at NPC in 1989.” Her mother, Claude Endfield, a well-known NPC instructor and member of NPC’s first graduating class, helped her see the benefits of a college education, especially at NPC as it had the programs she wanted and she didn’t have to leave the area and her family support group to gain an education.
Over the next several years, Laurel subsequently earned several degrees from NPC, an AAS in Family Care and an AAS in Early Childhood Management. She says the classes really helped her get started. “They seemed like they were made to make you successful!”
While Laurel says she has always worked (fast food service, maid, waitress) she took her first job in the education field as a teacher assistant with the Head Start program in Holbrook. Following that she became a family advocate at the Pinetop Head Start. She was then named manager of the NPC Whiteriver Center, a job she held for six years.
While she worked, Laurel was still going to school, earning both her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (B.A.I.L.S.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.) degrees from NAU.
In 1999, Laurel was one of 212 graduate students honored in the inaugural year of the Gates Millennium Scholarship program. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the program to promote academic excellence and provide significant financial aid for outstanding minority students. There were 63,000 applicants for the grants; Laurel was one of only 20 Native Americans and the first White Mountain Apache to be selected.
Knowing of her credentials, the administration at Whiteriver Unified asked Laurel if she would design a day care program for the district. Laurel developed a plan for the Alchesay Beginning Child Development (ABCD) Day Care program. Upon reviewing the plans, school officials asked Laurel to start the program and become its director. Today she oversees ABCD Day Care with more than 100 enrolled children.
ABCD is only one of many occupational hats that Laurel wears these days. She also teaches the childhood development classes at Alchesay High School and this past spring was named to head the school’s Career & Technical Education Department. She also teaches classes at Yavapai Community College, NPC and Northern Arizona University.
In her efforts to improve life for her students and residents of the Fort Apache Reservation, Laurel also heads up the Alchesay High School chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a national service organization with the family as its central focus. The group’s current project is “Locks of Love,” where students raise both money and hair donations for cancer patients.
Despite the many activities in her life, Laurel still continues to learn. She is currently writing her doctoral dissertation for Fielding Graduate University’s program, Educational Leadership & Change, and hopes to obtain her Ed.D. degree this summer.
As for the future, Laurel says, “I’m comfortable where I am. I thrive on challenge and there are so many concerns at Whiteriver there is always something new for me to solve.” She adds that she also discovered something about herself along the way. “Working with high school kids was not something I ever thought I’d do, but I’ve come to enjoy it. It is really rewarding.”
Acting as both teacher and role model to her students, Laurel offers this practical advice: “When it comes to succeeding in school, family support is the number one reason. Sometimes it’s a culture shock to go away to school, and that’s why starting at NPC can be good. You’ve got your family around to help and encourage you. I know that without the support of my mom and dad and my kids that none of my achievements would have been possible.”
As an Outstanding Alumnus, Laurel receives a three-credit-hour tuition gift certificate, a $25 bookstore gift certificate and a pass to NPC Performing Arts events. The Outstanding Alumnus Award Program honors NPC students for being examples of lifelong learning or are using their education to improve their communities. To nominate former NPC students for the award, click on www.npc.edu//support-npc/alumni-association.